This collection of papers takes a new, critical line on lifelong learning. Over the last few decades in the English-speaking world, a powerful consensus has developed about the need for nothing less than a revolution in education and training to maintain economic competitiveness. Politicians of the left, middle and right, trade union and business leaders have repeatedly promoted this rhetoric, choosing lifelong learning as the solution to a wide range of economic, social and political problems.
This report draws on empirical research which challenges this consensus in Germany, France and Spain, as well as in the UK. It suggests that instead lifelong learning may be better viewed as contested terrain between employers, unions and the state. It argues that lifelong learning is being turned into a moral obligation and a form of social control, and that the demands on employees to become and remain everlastingly employable are escalating.
The report raises many critical and controversial issues in examining the concepts of 'The Learning Society', 'The Learning Organisation' and 'Lifelong Learning' as they are being translated into practice in the UK with similar projects in a number of European countries. It also compares British initiatives. For example, footloose employers claim to be developing 'learning organisations' to which employees are expected to be totally committed, while being treated as totally expendable. The equation does not add up.
The report is essential reading for all politicians, policy makers, employers, trade unionists and educationalists keen to develop a Learning Society within the UK.
Frank Coffield, Institute of Education, University of London
Contents: Introduction: lifelong learning as a new form of social control Frank Coffield; Lifelong learning - learning for life? Some cross-national observations Walter Heinz; Models of guidance services in the Learning Society: the case of The Netherlands Teresa Rees and Will Bartlett; The comparative dimension in continuous vocational training: a preliminary framework Isabelle Darmon, Carlos Frade and Kari Hadjivassiliou; Inclusion and exclusion: credits and unites capitalisables compared Pat Davies; Using 'social capital' to compare performance in continuing education Tom Schuller and Andrew Burns; Issues in a 'home international' comparison of policy strategies: the experience of the Unified Learning Project David Raffe, Cathy Howieson, Ken Spours and Michael Young; Planning, implementation and practical issues in cross-national comparative research Antje Cockrill, Peter Scott and John Fitz.